Coyote Gulch's Colorado Water
The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land. -- Luna Leopold

Urban Drainage and Flood Control District

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Sunday, November 4, 2007

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From The Cortez Journal, "President Bush vetoed a water-resources bill Friday that included $1 million for water improvement on the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation. [U.S. Representative John] Salazar secured two Colorado projects as part of WRDA, including $1 million for water and wastewater improvements in Towaoc. Tom Rice, the tribe's environment director, said in August the Utes' drinking water issues are not as pressing as those pertaining to waste collection."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election
8:14:15 AM    

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Greeley has received permission to run a new water pipeline from Greeley to Bellvue. Here's a report from The North Forty News. They write:

In a late-night session Oct. 17, the Larimer County Planning Commission gave Greeley the go-ahead to take a 60-inch water pipeline through LaPorte along the Cache la Poudre River. The northern segment of the pipeline is the western-most leg of a 30-mile line that will connect the city's water treatment plant in Bellvue to water users in Greeley. Several property owners along the route, however, have vowed to fight Greeley, citing harm to the river corridor, harm to historic features such as an old railroad line, and loss of potential income from gravel mining and development. Objectors referred to the river corridor in LaPorte as a "special place" as defined in the county's master plan and said it should be protected. Planning commission approval came on a 4-3 vote, after members expressed concerns about impacts on the Poudre River and on LaPorte residents. Several commissioners chided Greeley officials for failure to communicate with property owners who could be affected by the project. "We don't want these people bullied," said chairman Jeff Boulter. Boulter voted for approval, however. "I believe there's an inevitability to a public works project like that," he said in a later interview. "It's their water, and their right to move it." Even if the commission had denied the Greeley request, the Greeley City Council could have overturned the decision with a majority vote. Boulter expects that would have happened if the commission had voted no. "Greeley is self-interested here," he said, noting that cost is an important factor for the city. The chosen route is most direct, and it relies on gravity-feed rather than pumping. "It's their duty to do the best they can in terms of cost efficiency," Boulter said...

A surprise offer from Greeley water officials came late in the Oct. 17 discussion. Jon Monson, director of the city's water and sewer department, announced that Greeley "does want to do the right thing" and offered to fund a third-party engineering study of best practices for putting the pipe along the river. "We extracted from Greeley a little extra that you don't normally get," said Boulter, adding that Greeley would not have offered the third-party study if the commission had denied their request. The study, added as a condition of the planning commission's approval, will look at preconstruction design, construction and post-construction reclamation. Other conditions of approval included working with conservation groups to monitor the impact of pipeline construction, working with landowners to preserve local historic resources as much as possible, and coordinating with DOW to avoid conflicts with nesting raptors. In the course of discussion, several commission members voiced concerns about the Poudre River corridor. "This is a very special corridor, not just some gully," said commissioner Roger Morgan, who also voted to approve Greeley's request. "We have messed with the river a lot. Where do we draw the line?" He said the pipeline would likely impede return flows that keep the river corridor healthy...

Moore said the next step is to work with property owners along the route to identify their concerns. While a preferred corridor has been identified, an exact route has not, and the city is willing to work with landowners in terms of the exact location of the pipe. After these discussions, the city will establish an exact route that inflicts "the least amount of damage," Moore said.

Moore estimated that right-of-way negotiations with property owners will be completed in six months to a year, and final design should be completed during that same time frame. Greeley's goal is to begin construction of the northern segment by late fall, 2009.

In the meantime, LaPorte property owners along the preferred route are still hoping to steer Greeley in other directions. Rose Brinks, whose land would be dissected by the pipe, plans to muster public opposition to the route through education.

"Of the 18 routes studied, it's the most destructive to agriculture and historic structures," she said. "If all else fails, we will file an injunction to stop them from tearing up our mineral deposits."

Mary Humstone, an affected property owner and a professional historic preservationist, has submitted a preliminary application to include a section of the 1881 Colorado & Southern Railroad line on the National Register of Historic Places. The half-mile segment is still partially intact and lies along the preferred pipeline route. If Humstone is successful, Greeley would have to mitigate impact on the historic site.

Ed Stoner and others are also appealing directly to the Greeley City Council to consider other routes.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
8:05:22 AM    

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Here's an update on the water level in the Leadville mining district from The Mountain Mail. From the article:

[The] water level in Leadville Mining District continues rising, surpassing historic levels and entities observing the phenomenon want to fix the problem. The water seems to be rising because of suspected blockages in two drainage tunnels on the east side. Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel is supposed to take dirty mine water from the district for treatment before being released into the Arkansas River. Canterbury Tunnel used to flow clean, warm water into the Parkville Water District system and the Arkansas River. The Lake County Commissioners met Oct. 19 with federal entities and concerned residents to make plans to deal with the issue...

Some federal agencies such as the Bureau of Reclamation and the Environmental Protection Agency, need to receive federal money to do anything. Mike Collins of the Bureau of Reclamation said he also needs federal authority to work on any water projects outside Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel water treatment. He said water being treated at the Leadville tunnel treatment plant is cleaner than it has been, indicating dirty mine water is not getting through the tunnel...

During the meeting, Bob Elder, Lake County resident and groundwater expert, offered a possible solution. He suggested a horizontal well into Canterbury Tunnel to draw water using gravity and to keep the good water from adding to bad water backup. Greg Teter, Parkville manager, said the water district has not been able to use water from the Canterbury Tunnel for 5 years because of blockage. Parkville has money for a feasibility study on the ability to pump the water veritcally from Canterbury Tunnel and into the Parkville system, he said. Elder's idea, Teter said, would be better than the Parkville plan, but outside the Parkville financial ability. Teter said Parkville has a water right to use 600 gallons per minute from Canterbury Tunnel, and the tunnel formerly had a 1,500-gallon-per-minute flow. If Elder's idea is used, part of the water would return to use for Parkville and the rest would free flow to the Arkansas River without treatment. This would be 1,500 gpm the bureau would no longer deal with in its Leadville tunnel problem, leaving only the mine water for consideration.

Category: Colorado Water
7:56:19 AM    

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Alamosa's shiny new treatment plant is ahead of schedule and should be online for testing by the summer, according to a report from The Valley Courier. From the article:

The water treatment plant to remove arsenic from Alamosa's drinking water is weeks ahead of schedule. Alamosa Public Works Director Don Koskelin estimated the project was about six weeks ahead of schedule and City Site Representative Larry Schreiner of Sage Constructors estimated it was about a month ahead of schedule. Schreiner attributed that to "a good contractor, Moltz Construction, and good weather." Schreiner said on Friday the brickwork was probably 90 percent complete and crews were expected to continue working over the weekend. The concrete work is about 95 percent complete. Some underground utilities have been installed, and the city is working on water and sanitary sewer lines. Xcel Energy was bringing in power to the facility on Friday...

City water supplies will ultimately run through the treatment plant which will filter out arsenic before distributing the water back into the city's water supply. The treatment facility was mandated by more stringent Environmental Protection Agency standards for arsenic levels in drinking water supplies. Alamosa's water did not meet the standards for allowable arsenic.

Category: Colorado Water
7:48:29 AM    

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From The Denver Post, "Gov. Bill Ritter plans to outline tough new statewide standards next week to combat global warming, The Associated Press has learned. Ritter is not expected to focus on new taxes but will set environmental goals, according to three people who have seen the plan. They did not want to be identified because they are not authorized to speak before the plan is made public. The governor plans to unveil his proposals on Monday at Coors Field, according to a letter from Ritter obtained by the AP."

Category: Colorado Water
7:37:59 AM    

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Here's a look at water supplies for Grand Junction from The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

The future of Grand Junction's water system is hardly a subject of debate among Grand Valley water managers. The city's 1996 municipal water supply master plan projects the source of much of the Grand Valley's tap water, the snowpack on Grand Mesa, will be stable and water-rich through 2050. The city has plenty of storage capacity in its reservoirs, and, as long as the city core's population doesn't explode beyond expectations in the coming decades, water supplies are secure beyond doubt, Franklin said. That's why Grand Junction has no mandatory water-use restrictions, unlike the cities of Denver, Las Vegas, Cortez and many others throughout the Rockies and Southwest.

But as sure as Arctic sea ice is melting and Colorado ski resorts are worried stiff about what a warming world will mean for their business, climate change places a big question mark over the security of drinking water supplies of which Grand Valley water managers are so confident. Colorado climatologists paint a picture of a particularly uncertain future for snowpack in the Rockies, the frozen cache; feeding the faucets of all who live here.

The effects of a changing climate on Colorado are quite the matter of educated guesswork, but the general consensus is that precipitation will more often fall as rain instead of snow, the snowpack will melt sooner each spring and, in parts of the West, warmer weather will desiccate soil once moist with the leftovers of soggy falls and snowy winters, [New Zealand native Dr. Kevin Trenberth] said. Enter Trenberth's concerns about character: With the onset of global warming, he said, rain will begin to fall in shorter, but more intense, bursts. "If the rain is more intense, it's more likely to run off," he said, adding that warming also means the annual spring runoff season may be earlier and shorter, engorging Colorado's streams and rivers with a violent gush of snowmelt. The character of rain and snowfall matters, Trenberth said, because if the rain comes down or the snow melts all at once, it'll be much more difficult to capture. Colorado River District General Manager Eric Kuhn explained it this way: Melting snow is easier to control and more efficient to trap in reservoirs than gushing rain, something that's becoming an issue already as May precipitation is more often falling as rain than snow...

Scientists take exception to calling their projections about climate change's impacts on water sources guesswork, but little is certain about how climate change will affect the Rockies compared with other parts of the country, where the effects of a changing climate are easier to forecast. Climatologically, the Intermountain West is a tough place to understand how global warming will affect rain and snow because climate models can't easily capture how topography in a specific area affects the weather, NCAR hydroclimatologist David Yates said. For example, climate models Yates uses classify the area between Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs as a single climate region despite that the Grand Valley is drastically more arid than the Roaring Fork Valley. But even as global temperatures rise, winter in some parts of Colorado may not look much different than today. Ultimately, "in the middle of December, is it going to rain in Breckenridge?" Yates said. "No, it's going to still be snow." Grand Mesa likely will continue to have snow 50 or more years from now because of its high elevation, even if the climate warms dramatically here, Kuhn said...

Higher priority water rights, that is, such as those of the Western Slope, where utilities such as Ute Water and Grand Junction say they have much less to fear from climate change than the booming metropolises east of the Continental Divide. "As a general rule, the West Slope municipalities are in the best shape because their growth is going into areas that (have) relatively senior (water rights)," Kuhn said. Grand Junction and Ute Water both have senior rights to water within their Grand Mesa watersheds. Grand Junction has water rights on the Gunnison and Colorado rivers dating from 1959.

Category: Colorado Water
7:26:12 AM    

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Conservationists are hoping to change Colorado water law to favor programs designed to keep water in the rivers and streams without penalty to senior rights holders, according to The Summit Daily News (free registration required). From the article:

With a pro-conservation majority in the state Legislature, conservation groups are chomping [sic] at the bit to enact meaningful environmental laws. Expanding the state's instream flow program is one of the biggest goals for Becky Long, water organizer for the Colorado Environmental Coalition. Several pending bills could improve the state's ability to keep water in streams for its environmental benefits, Long said.

Through the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), the state owns water rights that are used for environmental purposes, like making sure there is enough water for fish during-low-flow times. But the program has historically been under-funded, and the state's instream flow rights are often at the bottom of the totem pole in terms of seniority. Those junior water rights mean that, when the CWCB does call for instream water, it's often available only after all other senior rights are met. Under Colorado's first-come, first-serve water hierarchy, CWCB instream flows are one of the few ways to protect aquatic environments.

One measure would eliminate the so-called consumptive use penalty for water rights that are on long-term loan to the instream flow program. Under existing rules, a rancher who loans his water rights to the CWCB runs the risk of losing them. In a hypothetical loan scenario, a rancher in the Lower Blue could decide to forego growing hay for several years, instead letting that water pass downstream, thus boosting flows in the Blue River, without risking permanent loss of the water rights, Long explained. The loan option could bring significant benefits to the instream flow program because some of the historic irrigation rights are at the top of seniority list. That means if the CWCB needs to exercise a call for instream flows, the water would actually be available to protect environmental values in the river. The loan program could be especially beneficial along a reach of the Upper Colorado River in Grand County, were low late-summer flows have been a perennial issue, Long said.

Another bill could provide tax credits for instream flow donations against 50 percent of the value of the water rights. This measure might be a bit more of a challenge to pass because of the fiscal climate in the state, Long said. But the idea is to at least offset the transaction costs of a water right donation, a process that must be adjudicated by a water court in what can be a lengthy and expensive ordeal if there are any objectors, Long explained.

Category: Colorado Water
7:09:00 AM    

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Here's the news from last night's Poudre River Ball, from The Fort Collins Coloardoan. They write:

Money raised during the ball will be used to study the federal environmental impact statement on the proposed Glade Reservoir, which is expected to be released in the near future...The reservoir, which would sit northwest of Fort Collins, would hold an estimated 170,000 acre feet of water. Horsetooth Reservoir holds about 156,000 acre feet. Friends of the Poudre also honored seven locals at the ball Saturday night who have played key roles in resolving issues affecting the river.

Those recognized include:

> Gary Wockner and Mark Easter, leaders of Save the Poudre, a citizens group opposing Glade Reservoir, have collected information to educate the public on the Glade project.

> Gina Janett, who has been a voice for clean water and sensible development of water supplies in Fort Collins and Northern Colorado.

> Judy Jackson, a Bellvue resident who helped push the Division of Wildlife to reopen an area of the river near Watson Lake ideal for watching bald eagles and other raptors.

> Lynne Hull has organized the Procession of the River Species at NewWestFest for the past seven years. During the event, people don costumes of the wildlife that live in the Poudre's riparian habitat.

> Margaret Francia and Jim Carroll spend one Saturday a month volunteering their time to test the river's water on behalf of the state RiverWatch program.

Category: Colorado Water
6:46:59 AM    

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The city of Loveland uses rainbow trout to monitor the water coming into their treatment plant, according to The Longmont Reporter-Herald. From the article:

Plant operators already had systems to measure the pH and water clarity, which would signal a problem with the water, but they thought a primitive alarm made of live fish would add another measure of security to the city's drinking water supply. During [a] 1992 fish kill, "we didn't see a problem with the pH levels or anything," said John Perrine, a plant employee for 33 years and its chief operator. "We just saw the fish on the river floating around. We thought, if the fish are that susceptible, why don't we have them at the plant?" Plant workers installed two aquariums full of trout -- one with a constant feed of water pumped directly from the Big Thompson River and another with a constant feed of water from Green Ridge Glade Reservoir. "Trout are very susceptible to any sort of pollution," Perrine said. "If these fish die, we'll shut the plant down and investigate." Since the plant installed the tanks about 15 years ago, the fish have never died en masse.

Category: Colorado Water
6:37:11 AM    

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